« AnteriorContinuar »
traitors against the sovereign Majesty of heaven and earth: Yes, did the noblest blood run in your veins, and were your seat among princes, it would be necessary you should be told, and told plainly, you are most rebellious: You have broken the law of the King of kings, and by the breach of it you are become liable to his righteous condemnation, and are not in earnest to recover his favour.
Were not you born the natural subjects of God, born, as his creatures, under the indispensable obligations of his law? Does not your rational nature, whereby you are made capable of receiving law from God, bind you to obey it? And is it not equally evident and certain, that you have not exactly obeyed this law; nay, that you have violated it in many aggravated instances?
Will you dare to deny this? Will you dare to assert your innocence? Remember, it must be a complete innocence; yes, and a perfect righteousness too, or it can stand you in no stead farther than to prove, that, though condemned sinners, you are not quite so criminal as some others; and, although dying unpardoned, you will not have quite so hot a place in hell as they. And, when this is considered, will you plead not guilty to the charge? Search the records of your own conscience, for God searcheth them; and ask it seriously whether you have not sinned against God. Solomon declared in his days, there was not a just man upon earth, who did good and sinned not. And the apostle Paul testified that all had sinned and come short of the glory of God; that both Jews and Gentiles, (which you know comprehends the whole human race,) were all under sin. And can you pretend any imaginable reason to believe, the world is grown so much better since their days, that any should now plead his own case as an exception? Or will any of you presume to arise in the face of the heart-searching Majesty of heaven, and say, "I plead not guilty, I never rebelled against God, I never broke his righteous law ?"
Supposing you never allowed yourself to blaspheme God, to dishonour his name by customary swearing, or VOL. VII.
grossly to violate his sabbaths, or commonly to neglect the solemnities of his public worship. Supposing again, (and O that there were room to suppose this of every one!) that you have not injured your neighbours in their lives, their chastity, their character, or their property, either by violence or by fraud; and that you never scandalously debased your rational nature, or that of any man, by that vile intemperance, which sinks a man below the worst kind of brutes; supposing all this, can you pretend that you have not in smaller instances violated the rules of piety, of temperance, and of chastity? Is there any one person who has intimately known you, that would not be able to testify you had said or done something amiss? Or, if others could not convict you, would not your own heart do it? Does it not prove you guilty of pride, of passion, of sensuality, of an excessive fondness for the world and its enjoyments; of murmuring, or at least of secretly repining against God under the strokes of an afflictive providence; of mis-spending a great deal of your time; of abusing the gifts of God's bounty to vain, if not, in some instances, to pernicious purposes; of mocking him when you have pretended to engage in his worship, drawing near to him with your lips, while your heart has been far from him? Does not your conscience condemn you of some one breach of the law at least? And by one breach of it does not the Holy Ghost bear witness, (James ii. 10,) that you are become guilty of all, and are as incapable of being justified before God by any obedience of your own, as if you had committed ten thousand offences? But, in reality there are ten thousand and more to be charged to your account. When you come to reflect on all your sins of negligence, as well as on your voluntary transgressions; on all the instances in which you have failed to do good, when it was in your power to do it; on all the instances in which acts of devotion have been omitted, especially in secret; and on all those cases in which you have shewn a stupid disregard to the honour of God, and to the temporal and eternal happiness of your fellow-creatures; when all these, I say, are reviewed, the number
will swell beyond all possibility of account, and force you to cry out, I am rebellious, most rebellious, mine iniquities are more than the hairs of my head.'. They will appear in such a light before you that your own heart will charge you with countless multitudes; and how much more then that God, who is greater than your heart, and knoweth all things!'
And say, my fellow-creatures, is it a little thing that you have presumed to set light by the authority of the God of heaven, and to violate his law, even if it had been by mere carelessness and inattention? How much more heinous then is the guilt, when in so many instances you have done it like an audacious rebel knowingly and wilfully! Give me leave seriously to ask you, and let me entreat you to ask your own souls, "Against whom hast thou magnified thyself? Against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, or lifted up thy rebellious hand? On whose law, O sinner, hast thou presumed to trample? And whose friendship and enmity hast thou thereby dared to affront? Is it a man like thyself that thou hast insulted? Is it only a temporal monarch? Only one who can kill the body, and then hath no more that he can do? Nay, sinner, thou wouldst not have dared to treat a temporal prince as thou hast treated the King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible. No price could have hired thee to deal by the Majesty of an earthly sovereign as thou hast dealt by that God before whom the cherubim and seraphim are continually bowing. Not one opposing or complaining, disputing or murmuring word is heard through the many millions of the heavenly host, when the intimations of their Maker's will are published to them. And who art thou, O wretched man? Who art thou, that thou shouldest oppose him? That thou shouldest oppose a God of infinite power and terror, who needs but exert one single act of his sovereign will, and thou art in a moment stript of every possession; cut off from every hope; destroyed and rooted up from existence, if that were his pleasure; or, what is inconceivably worse, consigned over to the severest and most lasting agonies? Yet this is the God whom thou hast offended;
whom thou hast affronted to his face, presuming to violate his express laws in his very presence. This is the God against whom thou hast not only rebelled, but whose gracious offers of mercy in the Son of his love thou hast carelessly rejected. This is the God before whom thou standest a convicted criminal; convicted not of one or two particular offences, but of thousands and ten thousands, yea of a course of rebellions and provocations, in which thou hast persisted more or less ever since thou wast a child; and the particulars of many of which have been attended with aggravating circumstances. Reflect on particulars, and deny the charge if thou canst.
1. If sinning against any means of grace, and against knowledge, be an aggravation of guilt, thy guilt, O sinner, is greatly aggravated. For thou wast born in a Christian country, hast been brought up in a reformed church; God has delivered unto thee his sacred word, and has provided for thee teachers, coming early and late, to show thee the things that belong to thy peace. The means of grace have been brought, as it were, to thy very door; the manna of God's word runs round thy habitation. Thou canst not name one means of improving in Divine knowledge and grace, but what God has blessed thee with. Sacraments, plain sermons and lectures, reading of the word of God, and the soundest pieces of practical divinity, spiritual conferences, public and private prayers, instructions, singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs ;-all these means thou hast enjoyed, or mightest have enjoyed, if thy worldly and carnal mind had not made thee set light by them; still thou hast continued to dose on the pillow of security and presumption. And suppose thou art not one of those who entirely set at nought and turn from the instructions of their teachers, yet dost thou not often transgress in some such plain instances, that thine own reason, blinded as it is by the love of the world, manifests thy wilful disobedience; and knowing the righteous judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, hast thou not done the same;
nay, and, as St. Paul speaks, taken pleasure in those that did them; and even chosen them for thy intimate friends and companions, so as thereby to strengthen, by the force of example and converse, one another's hands in your contempt of vital religion and pursuit of vanity?
Did not God watch
you from a
Has he not
2. Add to this: If Divine love and mercy be an aggravation of the sins committed against it, your crimes, O sinner, have been heinously aggravated. 'I have nourished and brought up children,' says the Lord, (Isai. i,) and they have rebelled against me.' And is not this your very case, sinner? over you in your infant days, and guard multitude of known and unknown dangers? given you rational faculties, has he not hitherto bestowed upon you the necessaries, and perhaps also the conveniences of life? Has he not frequently appeared for your deliverance, when in the distresses of nature you have called upon him for help? Has he not rescued you from ruin when unforeseen accidents have cut off in an instant some of your acquaintances about you? Hath he not, on some occasions, healed your diseases, when all that were around gave you up? Or, if it has not been so, has not the uninterrupted health which you have enjoyed been an equivalent obligation? Look round upon all your blessings, and name, if you can, one thing of which the God against whom you rebel, has not been your bountiful Giver and gracious Preserver.Add to all these temporal mercies, the many tender invitations of his gospel, which you have heard and despised, and then say whether your rebellion hath not been aggravated by the vilest ingratitude, and whether that aggravation can be accounted small.
Again, If it be any aggravation of sin to be committed against conscience, your crimes, O sinner, have been thus aggravated: Consult the records of it, and then dispute the fact if you can : Conscience is the agent of God's Spirit in the soul of man, it may be blinded and stupefied, but it cannot be bribed. And it often condemns a sinner secretly, even while he endea